Effective presentation of research is essential to the work of historians

Welcome to our first research project!

Historic newspapers are vital sources for historians, especially for those interested in the United States since 1877. In fact, newspaper articles have famously been called the “first draft of history.” Yet as we’ve seen, newspapers, like every source, are biased, by which I mean they have a particular point of view. In our analysis of historic newspapers, we will use the SOCC method to critically evaluate newspapers in an effort to understand their biases so we can use the articles to answer significant historical questions. Good news — you’ve been doing this in our history gyms!

The next two weeks are devoted to your first of two “major assignments” you’ll be completing this semester. Together, they are worth 25% of your overall grade — so please give this assignment the time it deserves. You might even consider it your midterm exam. So you can focus all your efforts on this assignment, there is no quiz or history gym this module. 

For this project, you will do the work of a historian, conducting research on a topic in a historic newspaper archive and using that research to craft a narrative about a topic you chose. Follow the steps below, and watch the brief ‘how-to’ video (posted below) before starting. And I encourage you to begin as soon as possible — late assignments will be docked one letter grade for every 24 hours after the due date that the assignment is submitted. 


  1. Pick a Topic
    1. Review Chapter 22: The New Era in the American Yawp (Links to an external site.). It’s the chapter we explored last week about the 1920s.
    1. You may pick any event, person, object mentioned in that chapter to explore in this research project. In fact, I suggest you pick 2 or 3 possible topics to explore in the newspaper archive and pick the topic that best lends itself to successfully completing this project.
  2. Conduct Research
    1. Go to: the UWF Library homepage (Links to an external site.) (if off-campus, be sure to sign-in via the “access” tab)
      1. In the “Databases (Links to an external site.)” tab, click: “N” and then “New York Times Historical (1851-2008)”
    1. Search your topic  (HINT: limit search publication dates to a specific range. Use context clues from American Yawp add search terms so you can ‘find your topic’ in the NYT).
      1. Identify three articles that discuss your topic. (If you cannot find three articles –research another intervention!).
      1. Download the PDF of each article. Be sure to include the citation information.
  3. Analyze
    1. Carefully read the articles you selected. Identify key people, places, and events. The articles you select should provide an overview of the topic you selected. You may need to revisit the NYT archive to find more appropriate article(s).
    1. Use the articles (and only the articles) to create a timeline of the intervention. Your timeline should include 8 distinct events.
      1. Each event should include all of the following:
        1. Specific date, location, individuals/groups involved, and a brief two-to three-sentence description of the event.
        1. Use the articles and timeline to draft a 600-to 800-word description of the topic you researched. Do not use outside sources of information.
        1. Cite your newspaper articles using footnotes, refer to the posted example for formatting requirements (Chicago).
    1. Effective presentation of research is essential to the work of historians. Include these items in the listed order for success:
    1. Essential Information: name; course; date; instructor; assignment name
    1. Every good project should have a title: make sure yours has one.
    1. Include your 600-to 800-word description. Make sure it is free of grammatical errors. Read it out loud before submitting: if it doesn’t make sense to you/your roommate, then you should probably revise it.
    1. Include your chronological timeline. Follow this format and cite your newspaper articles using footnotes, refer to the posted example for formatting requirements (Chicago).
    1. To create a footnote, put the cursor where you want the footnote to go (right after the period in a sentence –see model). Click the “References” dropdown menu in Word. Then click “Insert Footnote.” Type in your citation.
    1. Use 12-point font; one-inch margins; single-space (include blank line between paragraphs/time-line entries)
    1. Append your three documents to your work. Make sure citation information is visible for each article.
    1. Save your project as one PDF or word document, using the following file-naming convention: LastName_NYTproject. For example: Wells_NYTproject.pdf.

Model Assignment and Template: Formatting is important, and I’ve provided you an assignment template  downloadto help you correctly format your assignment. I’ve also included a model assignment  download, submitted by a student completing this very assignment in a previous semester. I hope you find it useful.

GRADING will be based on the attached rubric using the criteria listed on the general rubric attached to the course syllabus.

WORDS OF WISDOM:  Carefully review the above directions, watch the ‘how-to’ video, and closely examine the model paper. Follow the directions exactly. Seek assistance sooner rather than later. And do not wait until the last minute to upload your assignment, technical errors always seem to happen when assignments are due, and late-submissions are subject to significant late penalties.

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